“For someone who waved a gun in my face demanding their daughter be given back, you have awfully little to say” Jade inspects, Jess’ back pressed against the brick wall beside the patio’s entry. “I told you what I came here for” Jess ripostes, the gun still held at her hip, prepared to take aim at the slightest hint of peril, “that’s all you need to know.”
Her hands resting atop her lap, fingers interlocked, Jade’s right leg drops from her left thigh, the sole of her boot coming to rest upon the hardwood porch. “Need and want are two different things- I need to eat, but I don’t necessarily want to sometimes” Jade replies, her back sinking into the chair’s padding, “I don’t need to know anything more about you, but I do want to.”
“That’s not my problem” Jess responds, her hair swept to one side of her head, eyes resting at the tips of the other woman’s boots, “give me my daughter, or I’ll kill you.” Allowing Jess’ declaration to simmer, Jade remains silent, considering how to respond. “What would happen then?” Jade inquires, remaining still in her chair as Jess listens, “you kill me, someone else takes my place and stalls just like I do. How many people are you gonna kill before someone comes around with a bigger gun?”
“As many people as I have to” Jess replies, no need for a brief moment to consider a reply, the answer already held at the tip of her tongue, “without Amy, I’m dead anyway. I either find her myself, or I die trying.” The sky dark in the face of the morning’s wee hours, all that prevails through the silence are the grumbles of toads and buzzing wings of dragonflies that call the nearby pond home, rushing water from the nearby fountain reflecting the lights around the patio that host the women.
“That sounds lonely” Jade ripostes, her voice beginning to soften, “I know that’s how it usually works with mothers, but I can’t imagine my life being dictated on the worth of someone else’s.” Her expression unchanged, Jess remains fixated on the ground just over Jade’s boots, tempted to respond. “I’m not a mom, and I’ve never been one. I’m not a wife, and the same rules apply. Maybe it’s just not my thing to understand” Jade persists, “but from an outsider’s perspective, that sounds sad.”
“You’re right-” Jess replies, speaking in as much of a calculated tone as she had the entire night prior, “-it’s not your thing to get.” The pleasure she’d been given for a moment having faded, Jade’s mind begins to take elsewhere, only for the sound of the home’s front door pushing open to relieve the pair from the conversation.
“Jade!?” Emilio angrily shouts, dressed in a white t-shirt and a pair of grey sweatpants, leading the rest of his small group into 18 Rawson at Archie’s behest, “what’s with the really early wake up call!?” Spilling out from the doorway, Alicia, Lauren and Angela huddle together whilst Salem, Heather and Amy flood into corners further away.
“If this is to tell me the incinerator’s back online, I’d be very pleased with that” Lauren adds in, purposefully shouting in a sarcastic tone, “though, you could have given me a call for that.”
Hiding from sight, Jess listens to the voices emerge from within the home, her expression changing at the sense of relief that comes over her, the familiar voices that sing to her ears providing comfort. “They have orders not to shoot” Jade remarks, watching Jess’ face turn toward her direction, “go rejoin your daughter.”
Offering the green light, Jade waits for Jess to take her up on the offer, still sat in the patio chair, her posture unchanged. Hesitant to believe the town’s sole power figure, the thought of finding Amy in the next room over dwarfs all other reluctances. Keeping the gun by her hip, Jess rounds the corner, stepping back into the home with eyes on the main foyer, the distant words shared amongst those she once shared a family with growing closer at each every step.
“Jade!?” Emilio exclaims again, his wait for the woman to present herself nullified once Jess steps through the connecting archway, his anger subsiding in favour of shock just as the rest of the group does. “Jess?” Alicia murmurs, quick to look at the woman in complete surprise. “Mom!” Amy counters with overwhelming excitement, her tiny legs dashing across the home’s large interior as she leaps into her mother’s arms.
Dropping to her knees, Jess tosses the gun aside as her arms wrap around her daughter, Archie, Isaac and Oliver quick to pull away from the reunion in an effort to check in on their sister. “Hi, honey” Jess responds, tearfully sobbing as she runs her fingers through Amy’s hair, the little girl’s face pressing against the side of her mother’s neck, their fractured family becoming as whole as it can be.
= Rise is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 from the start of Season 3 onwards =
The front door of his home slammed into with a heavy fist, Jack answers the door to find Rocky stood on his porch, dressed as if he were preparing to depart. “Should the reason you’re here worry me?” Jack introduces, his hand pressing against the door’s frame while the rest of his body leans against the closest wall. “Not unless the people up in Nova Scotia worry you” Rocky replies, allowing himself entry as he steps past Jack.
“Where’s the rest of your folks?” Rocky inquires, listening to the creaks that emerge as Jack swings the door shut. “Doing something that involves not being in this house, I’d assume” Jack ripostes, his arms crossing over his chest as he settles into a seat, “now, why would the Nova Scotians worry me?”
The question surprising him, Rocky presses his hip against the living room’s wall, stood just to the side of the group’s metal tub. “Well, with all they’ve managed to do in a world without law, it’d be safe to worry a little” Rocky replies, the thumbs on both of his hands tucked into the waistband of his blue jeans, “they’ve got a lot of power at their disposal, and I’m not just talking about fire power. It’s not common you’d find someone that thinks opposing Nova Scotia’s interest is smart.”
His eyes squinting, Jack’s elbows rest against his chair’s armrests, his face wearing a curious look. “Who said anything about going against Nova Scotia?” Jack responds, flipping the top to a pack of darts open as he lights a match, “the worst case scenario is that we withhold the weapons if they don’t give us our fair split. What’s the reason to worry?”
Looking Jack in the eyes as the smoke from burning herbs wafts throughout the room, Rocky folds his arms, the trench coat and gloves he wears rubbing together as his limbs cross. “I don’t think they see it that way” Rocky replies, his tone dropping a few notes, “they’re sending Courtney with reinforcements. There’s a chance they don’t view this as us trying to get our fair share.”
“I’m not following” Jack ripostes, taking another drag as he presses further into his seat. “We may see it as trying to get a fair split, but they might not” Rocky replies, “if they think we’re trying to slight them, they’ll use those reinforcements to make sure we cooperate.” The smoke from another drag flowing from his nose, Jack kicks one leg over the other with comfort, confident enough in his perceptions to present a smile.
“I’ve seen war with Nova Scotia- or the New World Order, as I knew them- and I’ve won that war” Jack responds, paying Rocky a wink with a smile, “I like our odds.” Perplexed, Rocky watches Jack leave his chair, the smoke still lifting from the dart he carries between his first two fingers. “Sure, when it comes to combat, I like our odds too” Rocky replies, continuing to speak as Jack walks across the room, “but putting boots to their asses doesn’t help us long term, does it?”
“As long as it helps long enough to get me to Nova Scotia, I’m fine with anything” Jack ripostes, setting his half-burnt dart in the ashtray atop the counter. “Well that doesn’t bode well for me, does it?” Rocky replies, slowly following the man’s trail toward the kitchen, “you may not have to care about this place, but I do.”
“Rocky, my only concern is with getting to Nova Scotia. That’s the way it’s been since the moment we made the deal for those guns” Jack responds, his hands pressed against the countertop’s edge, “no offence to you, but what happens to Rockford when I’m gone is none of my concern.”
Taking a damp cloth to the kitchen area, Jack pulls another drag off the dart and dulls Rocky’s response out with his cleaning. “I don’t think you’re seeing the point. If they look at us as traitors, we’re both fucked” Rocky replies, watching the sweat drip from Jack’s face, “there’s gonna be nothing coming into Rockford, and there’ll be no ticket to Nova Scotia for you.”
“You better play nice then” Jack ripostes, throwing the rag over his shoulder as he rounds the corner, pulling the cigarette to his lips as he looks Rocky in the eyes, “because, if you break your promise, I’m gonna be a very dangerous man to live around.” Taking a final drag, Jack presses the burning herbs into the ceramic pit, never once taking his eyes off the visitor.
“I want what’s best for this settlement, and you want what’s best for yourself” Rocky replies, his crossed arms falling back to his sides, “the only way we both get what we want is if we work together.” With a light chuckle, Jack presses his hand against the counter, waiting for the man’s proposition to be made. “I want you and your friends to sit in on the meeting. I want them to know you’re a powerful influence in these talks” Rocky remarks, “they’re your guns after all, it’s only right.”
The offer sitting in the back of his mind, Jack lets a few moments pass as he ponders the proposal. “They’re looking for it to be on the 28th of June. They’ll hold a summit with the leaders from the other settlements before then. If they’re letting the others have a say in whether or not we get shafted, my hopes aren’t high” Rocky concludes, bowing his head as he turns to let himself out, “I hope you’ll accept.”
Exiting as independently as he’d arrived, Rocky returns to his business whilst Jack stays behind, still yet to fully digest the discussion that had taken place.
“And that’s when it happened” Jess responds, stood in the foyer’s centre with a gathered crowd huddled in her every direction, Amy sat in the chair beside her. “So, they run across you in the woods, they tell you where Cumberland is, and Ryan gets spooked by the horde and steps in the bear trap. What next?” Isaac replies, taking pen to pad as the woman responds, detailing every bit of the story presented.
“Ameil hurried over to help him. I’m pretty sure he knew couldn’t open the trap, but I think he just wanted to know he tried” Jess ripostes, stoic in the face of a traumatic recollection, “that’s when the dead got him.” Visibly disheartened, Amy presses her hands over her knees as she falls back into her seat, whilst Heather sits close by with the feeling of nausea building within her.
“After that, I just ran” Jess concludes, her hand placed upon her daughter’s feeble paw, “I didn’t stop until I got here.” The story offered, Isaac turns to Jade with a subtle nod, the cover of his notepad falling over the paper he’d written upon, the tale given closing a short chapter of mystery in Cumberland.
“Alright. That’s all we need” Jade finally mutters, clearly disheartened as she turns for the patio, “welcome to Cumberland.” Watching the woman retreat, Emilio pulls away from his clustered group, following Jade through the length of her home in silence. “I can see your reflection in the windows, Emilio” Jade murmurs, stepping through the home’s rear exit.
“I just wanted to make sure you were alright” Emilio replies, stepping onto the terrace as the woman falls into her seat. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Jade questions, still carrying an obvious amount of sorrow behind the composed expression she’d prefer people see. “Because losing people isn’t supposed to be easy” Emilio replies, taking his eyes to the pond for a quiet moment.
“What’s unfortunate about that is that it is” Jade ripostes, her feet stood close to the patio’s ledge, “the more people there are, the easier they are to lose. We live, we die, it’s natural. You get used to it eventually.” Not wishing to argue the moral dilemma behind the woman’s statement, Emilio remains quiet, unsure of how to react.
“The hard part is having to tell their family” Jade adds, her hair laid over the shoulders she presents bare, only topped by the straps to her tank top, “that’s the part that sticks with you.” The sunlight bouncing off the water and cascading a bright, yellow glow over her pale face, Jade turns to return home, bags beginning to form beneath her eyes. “I’ll tell her for you” Emilio finally remarks, watching the woman’s eyes take to him, her lower jaw pushed slightly ahead.
“Thanks for the offer, but the hunt was my idea. I need to be the one to tell her” Jade replies, her hand patting the man on the chest as she walks past. “Do you need to or do you want to?” Emilio turns back to reply, watching the woman spin around after a few silent moments. “You’re a good man, Emilio” Jade responds, patting the man on the side of the cheek before turning away again, “keep it that way.”
“You’re getting good at that” Jack remarks from afar, his hands tucked into his pockets as he watches Franklin’s bayonet drive through the eyesocket of a straggler beyond the gates of Rockford’s borders. “What’s got you working the hard labour?” Jack proceeds to inquire, his hand sifting through an assortment of weapons that have been left to a nearby metal bin, “I thought we’d left that life behind?”
Amidst grunts and heavy breaths, Franklin fights the lines of sweat that drip from his face to answer. “They were short-handed. I figured it’d be of use to help” Franklin replies, slashing at another corpse through his momentary pause, “it also helps me get a break from you- which, if we’re being honest, wouldn’t be wise to invade.”
Grasping the end of a rebar pipe, Jack struts toward Franklin with a humoured grin. “Let’s not pretend like you’re not getting something out of this too” Jack responds, the pipe held between his fingers as if it were a pool cue as he strolls past the large man, “go ahead and tell me that reuniting with Alicia wouldn’t make you the happiest man on earth, and I’ll call you a liar.”
With ease, Jack presses his teeth together as stragglers roam closer, the closest of which parting its teeth to give Jack an easy attempt at ripping the pipe through the zombie’s throat. “I’m not mad at the plan, I’m mad that you kept it from me” Franklin ripostes, wiping the sweat from his face before joining Jack on the frontlines of defence, “you let me think she, and all the rest of them, were gone for months. You don’t just take that back and expect things to be peachy.”
“Half of that plan would have revolved around getting Clint and Nessie on board” Jack replies, stabbing the next corpse in the face mid-sentence, “they didn’t want to follow a plan to begin with. If I tell any of you earlier, how well do you think it would have gone over?” The midsoles of his boots covered with sand, Franklin’s bayonet slices the next corpse’s face in two just as he begins to respond.
“I didn’t say I couldn’t understand your reasoning, I said I’m no fan of it” Franklin responds, his boot lifting to press against the next corpse’s chest, “you need to give me a minute to forgive you for leaving me in the dark.” Finishing the job he’d started, Franklin’s boot shoves the dead to the dry soil below, and with a brief hover over the body’s face, splatters the brain matter its skull once contained along the ground.
Staying behind, Jack lets the head of the rebar sit in the ground, his eyes squinting against the blinding light of the new summer. “I hope you won’t need much more than a minute in that case-” Jack replies, his free hand shielding his eyes from the world’s lightbulb above, “-because I don’t think we have much more than that to offer.”
His path forward clear for the moment, Franklin peers to Jack from just over his shoulder, a curious look scrawled upon the combatant’s face. “I don’t like when you talk in riddles” Franklin ripostes, turning away from the field ahead in favour of returning to Jack, “cut to the chase and tell me what you’re getting at.”
Through a sigh, Jack leads Franklin back the way they’d arrived, returning the rebar pipe along the way. “Rocky stopped by to let me know that he’d scheduled a meeting with the people from up north in a couple of weeks” Jack replies, the collar of his shirt beginning to darken with sweat, “he wanted us to take part.”
Chewing the gum in his mouth slower, Franklin thinks to himself quietly for a moment, the bead of sweat that dangles from his nose finding its way to the rough ground before Franklin’s voice can emerge. “Why would he want to do that?” Franklin responds, finding no amount of silent questioning can offer him the answer he seeks, “that- it just makes no... no sense.”
“He said he wanted our friends up north to know we’re a ‘powerful influence’ here” Jack replies, unable to hold back the eye roll he instinctively answers with. “So he wants them to think there are more people to push around than just him?” Franklin asks curiously, only able to get a shrug from Jack. “If that’s what it sounds like, then sure- it’s better than what I could come up with” Jack retorts, “whatever the reason is, the offer’s there. We either take it, or we don’t.”
Hands pressed against his hips, Franklin’s eyes pull toward the coastline, where the sunlight bounces off the waves of the Atlantic’s warm waters, searching through countless thoughts in an effort of finding his preferred one. “Get Nessie and Clint to agree, and I’ll be on board” Franklin finally responds, stepping back into the harsh field to continue his work, “whether together or separate, some of us should be there.”
Nothing left to say, Franklin turns back to his duties, rejoining the small militia beneath the gruelling heat as Jack watches on, satisfied with the answer enough to leave the conversation behind.
“So, are you scared?” Lauren inquires, stood beside Angela to the right of Alicia whilst Salem occupies the side to the left, their journey taking them up the quiet streets that lead to their home. “I don’t think ‘scared’ is the right word. ‘Disappointed’ might be, but ‘scared’ isn’t” Alicia ripostes, her baggy grey t-shirt worn just as it was when she’d first awoken, the entire day having passed since they’d stepped foot in their home.
“Franklin?” Salem interjects, the disheartened nod she gets from the middle-bound woman affording her the answer. “It’s not that I’m worried about having a kid alone, it’s just that he’s not gonna be there- for any of it” Alicia replies, her head beginning to hang, “he won’t be there for the birth, or for the birthdays. He won’t be there for the first steps, or the first words. Our kid is gonna grow up without their father- that’s the hardest thing to think about.”
“Sure, but on another hand, there’s a chance they won't” Salem responds, rubbing the small of Alicia’s back with a friendly, optimistic expression, “Lauren’s still holding out hope to get back to Jack. There’s a fair chance Franklin’s out there looking for you somewhere too.” Flashing the woman an appreciative grin, Alicia bows her head with thanks as the rest of the small group’s attention is taken by a sight in the distance.
In silence, the group’s pace begins to lighten as a woman, overcome by grief, staples a set of flyers to the telephone pole nearby. Without a word, the woman walks off, venturing to the next street over as the trail of tears present through the light hint of makeup she wears. The first to step forward, Lauren pulls away from the group to approach the poster, the pictures plastered upon the paper striking her as familiar despite how far away they sit.
“You alright, Laur’?” Angela calls out, just as taken back by the woman’s departure as those beside her. Without a response, Lauren continues upon the flyer, able to read the bold-lettered ‘Missing Children’ headline from afar, the faces in the picture just above growing clearer as she steps closer. “Seriously, Lauren- are you alright?” Alicia exclaims, the next to break off from the pack, concerned by the silence Lauren continues to meet them with.
The odd women out, Salem and Angela soon pursue their separated friends together, watching Lauren stop at the pole’s base with a look of worry. “Who are Roddy and Randy?” Salem inquires from afar, reading the bold print beneath the boys’ pictures. “Do you know them, Laur’?” Alicia follows, her hand resting on the small of the woman’s back. Still silent, Lauren continues to look at the pictures, the sickening pit in her stomach only continuing to worsen with time.
“Laur’?” Alicia calls again, Lauren still able to hear her name called, though too challenged for thought to respond, “Laur’?” Alicia calls once more, finally earning something of value. “No” Lauren replies, forcing the profound look of distress on her face aside, “I thought I did- but I don’t.” Offering no more than that, Lauren pulls away, hands hung by her sides as she walks off for home, the rest of her group left behind in confusion of how to react.
“I love how easy it is to find the two of you” Jack exclaims, stepping beside dirty footprints on his way to the bar where Clint and Nessie reside, drinking the night away in peace. “Does the fact that we like booze make us predictable?” Nessie ripostes, meeting Jack with a sarcastic tone. “It does to the trained eye” Jack responds with equal sarcasm, pulling the stool Nessie sits upon to the side, replacing her spot with an empty stool he soon occupies.
“Do we need to ask why you’re here, or are you going to tell us regardless?” Clint qualms, his hands clasped around the condensation-covered glass his beer is contained within. “I think you already know the answer to that question” Jack responds, the dance music that softly roars through the building’s stereo system not strong enough to overpower the voice he follows his Irish ancestors in the tradition of commanding a room with.
Downing the alcohol that remains in their glasses, the siblings climb down from their stools and follow Jack to the alley just behind the pub. “Rocky came by the house earlier” Jack remarks, not even fully walking through the tavern’s rear exit before starting the conversation, “he wants us to take part in the meeting he’s got with the Nova Scotians.”
“Woah- hold up and slow down” Clint quickly interrupts, surprised at the information, “he- why?” With her arms crossed, Nessie stands in front of Jack whilst Clint leans against the bar’s brick wall rear entrance. “A power move? A bargaining chip? I don’t know- the point is, he wants us there” Jack replies, his face dirtied by what he’s occupied his day with, “Franklin’s interested as long as the two of you are.”
“Why would we want to?” Nessie responds, sliding a stick of gum between her lips as she continues, “I don’t see how us getting involved with their meeting will help matters.” His head shaking, Jack is left with as little of an answer as he’d held for Franklin. “I can only guess what his motives are. He gave us the offer, and he said he wanted Nova Scotia to know we were powerful figures in the conversation” Jack replies, “aside from that, I can only make assumptions.”
“Well, we’ll work with what we know then” Clint ripostes from afar, less interested than the others in speculation, “what reason would Rocky have for including us in this meeting?” The question raised, the trio wonder separately, working within the dimensions given. “I mean, he did say he wasn’t confident they’d give him a fair share” Jack replies, hurling a wad of spit onto the sunset-illuminated asphalt below, “maybe he thinks our support gives him a better shot?”
“Or maybe he’s got too little leverage to make demands?” Nessie quickly adds, her arms still crossed upon her chest, “he did say he needed people to keep seeing him as a competent leader, didn’t he? If he’s getting shoved around by the pricks up north, it might keep him from retaining control down here.”
“Or alternatively, he knows the meeting isn’t going to lead anywhere good” Clint responds, a notable dread carried in his response, “maybe having us there is less about giving us a say and more about redirecting the blame.” Looking away, Jack lets Clint’s conclusion settle, the idea too believable to disregard.
“I did tell him what happened to Rockford wasn’t any of my concern after we were gone- he didn’t seem too put off by that” Jack recollects, finally turning to look Clint in the eyes, “you might be onto something.” Their suspicion only growing, Nessie offers her answer before any further persuasion can convince her otherwise. “We should take the offer” Nessie interrupts, cutting through the tense inner-thought before it can simmer any further.
“Were you not listening to a single thing I just said?” Clint rebuttals, his sister’s response quickly changing his mind. “We can go there, sit in and wait for Rocky to make his move” Nessie explains, invigorated by the plan she’s concocted, “if he seems too eager to let the Canadians have their way, we can speak up and demand more of them. Make it impossible to blame us for cutting Rockford short, if that’s really what he’s hoping to do.”
Hesitant, Clint makes his argument against the proposition, too eager to refuse his sister any leverage on the matter. “Not only would challenging Nova Scotia be a bad move, but it’d screw Rockford short anyway” Clint retorts, scratching the back of his buzzcut-shaven head, “we come in too cold, he can blame us for giving them too much. If we come in too hot, he can blame us for reaching too high and leaving the town with nothing.”
“Then we don’t come in too hot or too cold- we let Rocky make his argument, and if he low-balls, we take over from there” Nessie replies, looking her brother in the eye as she speaks, “if he tells us to slow our roll, we pull our foot from the gas and let him take the fall for calling us off.”
“It’s a better choice than just not showing up” Jack interjects, quickly finding himself aligning with Nessie, “Rockford still doesn’t know about the surplus last time I checked. If shit goes south, we still have a card to play stuffed up our sleeve.” Still reluctant, Clint begins to pace around the alley, the lingering doubt in his mind relentlessly trying to pull him toward opposing the idea.
“We’re a threat to him now, Jack. When we first met the man, he said ‘if you were a threat to me, I’d want you gone’” Clint recalls, stood in the alley across from Jack and Nessie, who now reside shoulder-to-shoulder. “His hold on this compound is loosening every time the ships dock without enough food to feed the entire settlement” Jack ripostes, stepping away from Nessie to approach her brother, “we have to do something before he decides we know too much for comfort- this is our chance.”
“If we sit around waiting for the next trip to Nova Scotia, we’ll just be sitting ducks” Nessie adds, rejoining her brother by standing to Jack’s side, “our best bet is to get some leverage on him while we can. If this settlement takes him down, we can make sure he doesn’t take us down with him.” Every attempt at persuasion leaving him feeling more guilty the longer he declines, the pressure to give in finally consumes Clint.
“Fine” the man replies, granting Jack and Nessie the wave of relief they’re left consumed by, their accomplished sighs earned.
== Rise ==